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This album was never supposed to have been made. Archipelago were never supposed to have existed. It was just the one track, an instrumental B-side, then I’d change the project name and move on to something else. Just write a nice song and dream it all up again.
‘The other side of the world’, written in Nagoya earlier in 2015 but chewing at my brain for years earlier, was the one track and the instrumental B-side was ‘Marwencol’ (after one of my favourite documentaries). But the night before we were due to go into Panoram Studios in Mexico City I came up with the riff and vocal for ‘Bassline and the breakbeat’ over a skeletal beat. I’d booked Shannon in to record vocals for four hours – her first time in a recording studio, mine as well actually – and thought we could do it that one if there was time left over. There was. To spare. Shannon was that good.
It was December 2015 and although we’d just agreed to do the one track, I asked Shannon, then studying at the Escuela Superior de Música and who I’d met by asking around online for a gospel or soul singer for a pure house music project I’d come up with, whether she’d be interested in doing more. She was.
We needed more material then.
It’s telling most of the album was instrumental or with repeated vocals here and there. It was all written in fits and bursts of inspiration before booked studio time in Mexico City and then finished on deadline day in Osaka. All of the lyrical genius went into ‘Euroballad (part I)’, probably my favourite track we’ve done as a group.
It started the whole ‘write songs about psychogeography’ trend we delved deeper into with ‘Archipelagoism’. ‘Euroballad (part II)’ was unused bits from Part I and really shows off the project’s roots watching the ‘Pump up the volume’ documentary on YouTube late one night then instantly switching tabs to Google to hunt for gospel singers in the Mexico City because ‘Love can’t turn around’ is brilliant and why can’t all songs be ‘Love can’t turn around’.
‘Bassline and the breakbeat’ was developed into breakcore lite, which was a big Osaka influence, being the world’s breakcore Mecca. David Bowie died during the making of this record and whilst there’s no audio nick we did record ‘Umeda acid’ in a rather Eno-esque Berlin Trilogy fashion: I had Shannon sing the last line first and then we worked backwards improvising, recording each line one by one. I remember nothing about ‘New jazz city’ other than the fact I worked really hard on a lyric but couldn’t come up with anything and if nothing else it was a tip of the hat to working with Shannon’s influences, which are very traditional.
Influences. There weren’t many, we were supposed to be an 80s Chicago house act with subtle Latin touches and flourishes. Everything But the Girl ‘Temperamental’, the Street Fighter III: Third Strike soundtrack for the jazzy house side of things. ‘Pump up the volume’. And then I discovered Soichi Terada via Hunee’s compilation and almost binned the album because he had done it already, just better.
The album was self-released at the end of April 2016; in September that same year I got an e-mail out of the blue asking me to open for THAT Soichi Terada in Kyoto as the event organiser had heard the album playing in Siesta, a well-known café there. So that was the big, unexpected emotional payoff and also where the second album really starts – getting to play with and speak to Soichi Terada (we nicked the bongo pattern from ‘Houhai Beats’ for ‘Euroballad (Part II))’ really made it all worthwhile. It was also at that party where we’d meet future collaborators in NC4K (Magochi) and staunch colleagues like AFR.
It was around that time I wrote ‘I remember rivers’ to start work on what would become ‘Archipelagoism’ and which somehow reaffirmed my faith in positivity and humanity, even with everything happening in the world in 2016. It still took guts to be gentle and kind though and that’s where this new album picks up.
I hope you enjoy this album, these craggy little islands of songs in a big, vast, deep sea.
Osaka, 20 June 2018
Andrés Claramunt Quiles
released June 20, 2018
Andrés Claramunt Quiles
Shannon Victoria Leeman